The Strips Forgotten Visionary And Founder
People who visit the Strip probably don’t spend time thinking about how it came into being. Who, exactly, had the idea that this barren stretch of desert road could become something that most would not even think possible? This man did foresee something others didn’t. And, he was right.
Who was this visionary who planted the seeds for the Strip we all love today? Do you have an idea? I bet many will guess Bugsy Siegel. Well, let’s check it out.
Because of the movies and television programs, people are led to think Bugsy Siegel was a visionary and foresaw the future of the Las Vegas Strip. This is not the case. So, if he was not that person, who was?
If you read many Vegas history books or watch YouTube videos about the history of the Las Vegas Strip, you will hear several candidates put forth. The answer really depends on when, what date, one thinks the Strip had its birth and what establishment was the starting point in its history.
We could consider Thomas Hull, a California hotelier who built the first hotel and casino on the strip, the El Rancho. It opened in 1941.
You may see Billy Wilkerson’s name mentioned. He is the one who actually began building the Flamingo before Bugsy Siegel even became a partner. However, the Flamingo was opened in 1946, a good five years after the El Rancho, so we can mark out both Wilkerson and Siegel from the prospect list.
If we back up a decade, to 1930, we can find the first real establishment on the Strip. It was called the Pair-O-Dice. A couple by the name of Frank and Angelina Detra were the proprietors. Their establishment was planted where the now imploded Frontier used to be.
The Detras were not really envisioning a future building boom for that area. They were more concerned with getting outside the city limits of Las Vegas and the reach of the local cops. Their establishment was a private nightclub that offered alcohol during prohibition. They also offered gambling which was also illegal until 1931. The Detras were pioneers for sure, but not visionaries.
In 1939, a man named Guy McAfee, a former police officer from Los Angeles, bought the club from the Detras. He remodeled, upgraded, and reopened it under a new name, the 91 Club, because it was located on Highway 91, that is Las Vegas Boulevard today, the Strip, today. He also coined the term, “The Strip.”
Therefore, Guy McAfee is the person who did see the prospects for a strip like the Sunset Strip he knew so well back in LA. We will award him the title of visionary for the Las Vegas Strip. His hunch has proved to be true way beyond anything he, or anyone else, could have imagined at the time.
You can read our prior article about Bugsy Siegel and the many myths that surround his story here.